From defeat to deception and vengeance – South Carolina State Quarter Coin

Today, the South Carolina State Quarter Coin remembers the proclamation made by Sir Henry Clinton on June 3, 1780 and the response of the South Carolinians.

From the History of the Western World, published in 1832:


The fall of Charlestown was matter of much exultation to the British, and spread a deep gloom over the aspect of American affairs.

The southern army was lost; and, although small, it could not soon be replaced.

In the southern parts of the Union there had always been a considerable number of persons friendly to the claims of Britain.

The success of her arms roused all their lurking partialities, gave decision to the conduct of the wavering, encouraged the timid, drew over to the British cause all those who are ever ready to take part with the strongest, and discouraged and intimidated the friends of congress.

Sir Henry Clinton was perfectly aware of the important advantage which he had gained; and resolved to keep up and deepen the impression on the public mind, by the rapidity of his movements and the appearance of his troops in different parts of the country.

For that purpose he sent a strong detachment, under earl Cornwallis, over the Santee, towards the frontier of North Carolina.

He dispatched a second, of inferior force, into the centre of the province; and sent a third up the Savannah to Augusta.

These detachments were instructed to disperse any small parties that still remained in arms, and to show the people that the British troops were complete masters of South Carolina and Georgia.

Soon after passing the Santee, lord Cornwallis was informed that colonel Buford was lying, with 400 men, in perfect security, near the border of North Carolina.

He immediately dispatched colonel Tarleton, with his cavalry, named the Legion, to surprise that party.

After performing a march of 104 miles in fifty-four hours, Tarleton, at the head of 700 men, overtook Buford on his march, at the Waxhaws, and ordered him to surrender, offering him the same terms which had been granted to the garrison of Charlestown.

On Buford’s refusal, Tarleton instantly charged the party, who were dispirited, and unprepared for such an onset.

Most of them threw down their arms, and made no resistance; but a few continued firing; and an indiscriminate slaughter ensued of those who had submitted as well as of those who resisted.

Many begged for quarter, but no quarter was given.

Tarleton’s quarter became proverbial throughout the Union, and certainly rendered some subsequent conflicts more fierce and bloody than they would otherwise have been.

Buford and a few horsemen forced their way through the enemy and escaped: some of the infantry, also, who were somewhat in advance, saved themselves by flight; but the regiment was almost annihilated.

Tarleton stated that 113 were killed on the spot; 150 left on parole, so badly wounded that they could not be removed; and 53 brought away as prisoners.

So feeble was the resistance made by the Americans, that the British had only twelve men killed and five wounded.

The slaughter on this occasion excited much indignation in America.

The British endeavored to justify their conduct, by asserting that the Americans resumed their arms after having pretended to submit; but such of the American officers as escaped from the carnage denied the allegation.

For this exploit Tarleton was highly praised by earl Cornwallis.

After the defeat of Buford, there were no parties in South Carolina or Georgia capable of resisting the royal detachments.

The armed force of congress in those provinces seemed annihilated; and the spirit of opposition among the inhabitants was greatly subdued.

Many, thinking it vain to contend against a power which they were unable to withstand, took the oath of allegiance to his Britannic majesty, or gave their parole not to bear arms against him.

In order to secure the entire submission of that part of the country, military detachments were stationed at the most commanding points; and measures were pursued for settling the civil administration, and for consolidating the conquest of the provinces.

So fully was sir Henry Clinton convinced of the subjugation of the country, and of the sincere submission of the inhabitants, or of their inability to resist, that, on the 3d of June, he issued a proclamation, in which, after stating that all persons should take an active part in settling and securing his majesty’s government, and in delivering the country from that anarchy which for some time had prevailed, he discharged from their parole the militia who were prisoners, except those only who had been taken in Charlestown and Fort Moultrie, and restored them to all the rights and duties of inhabitants; he also declared that such as should neglect to return to their allegiance should be treated as enemies and rebels.

This proclamation was unjust and impolitic; proceeding on the supposition that the people of those provinces were subdued rebels, restored by an act of clemency to the privileges and duties of citizens; and forgetting that for upwards of four years they had been exercising an independent authority, and that the issue of the war only could stamp on them the character of patriots or rebels.

It might easily have been foreseen that the proclamation was to awaken the resentment and alienate the affections of those to whom it was addressed.

Many of the colonists had submitted in the fond hope of being released, under the shelter of the British government, from that harassing service to which they had lately been exposed, and of being allowed to attend to their own affairs in a state of peaceful tranquility; but the proclamation dissipated this delusion, and opened their eyes to their real situation.

Neutrality and peace were what they desired; but neutrality and peace were denied them.

If they did not range themselves under the standards of congress, they must, as British subjects, appear as militia in the royal service.

The colonists sighed for peace; but, on finding that they must fight on one side or the other, they preferred the banners of their country, and thought they had as good a right to violate the allegiance and parole which sir Henry Clinton had imposed on them, as he had to change their state from that of prisoners to that of British subjects without their consent.

They imagined that the proclamation released them from all antecedent obligations.

Not a few, without any pretence of reasoning on the subject, deliberately resolved to act a deceitful part, and to make professions of submission and allegiance to the British government so long as they found it convenient, but with the resolution of joining the standards of their country on the first opportunity.

Such duplicity and falsehood ought always to be reprobated; but the unsparing rapacity with which the inhabitants were plundered made many of them imagine that no means of deception and vengeance were unjustifiable.


The South Carolina State Quarter Coin shows with an artist’s image of Sir Henry Clinton, circa 1780s.

South Carolina State Quarter Coin